Skincare stylist Nina Park with a model backstage during New York Fashion Week.

Skincare stylist Nina Park with a model backstage during New York Fashion Week.

The Cut has a running series called “Why Is Your Skin So Good.”

People of every profession, race and skin regimen make a short video about their daily skin care routine and share what products they use.

In the Instagram age, it seems like everyone is thirsty for glowy, healthy skin. It’s never been easier to look at your face and people are being photographed more and more.

To get photogenic skin, people are forking over plenty. By 2024 the skin care industry is estimated to be worth more than $180 billion (yes, with a b, not an m).

Even some members of Congress are getting in on the skin care hype.

Freshman Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez broke down her routine on Instagram.

Her tip? Put some makeup wipes by your bedside, just to make sure your skin has a chance to breathe overnight, even if you’re too tired to clean your skin at your bathroom sink. Also? Some days, she just doesn’t wear any makeup. “Everyone just has to deal with it,” she said.

But for all the tips — all the water one might drink and exercise one might get — The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull says the best skin care tip of all is being rich.

The moral halo around “good skin” isn’t a coincidence. The behaviors associated with a clear, even-toned complexion require those who want it to reject hedonism in a way that is still deeply ingrained as virtuous in American culture; that the wealthy have mastered the look reinforces capitalistic notions of success and who achieves it (the ascetic, dedicated, and hardworking). The journalist Jaya Saxena found as much when she investigated the connections between skin and poverty earlier this year. “We assume those at the top are there because they’ve done something right. And if they have straight teeth, toned bodies, and smooth skin, that must be ‘right’ too,” she wrote. “It’s not that we think having bad skin is a moral failing. It’s that we think poverty is.”

Maybe that’s why the wealthy models and actresses and the media who exalts (sic) them are so dedicated to the idea that those results must be earned through actions, when in reality, they’re usually bought with money.

We break down what’s behind our new skin care obsession.

Produced by Jonquilyn Hill.

Guests

  • Cheryl Burgess Founder and president, Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery
  • Amanda Mull Staff writer, The Atlantic; @amandamull
  • Charlotte Cho Co-founder, Soko Glam; @charlottejchol
  • Dave Cho Co-founder, Soko Glam; @davekcho

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